Beats and yelling from: Hail Conjurer, Hasard, Martre

Hail Conjurer: Ouroboros Lust
Out 18th May on Bestial Burst

Hail Conjurer continue their journey into surrealist black metal doom with the latest outing ‘Ouroboros Lust’. Fuzz prevails, with a wash of background static, eerie drones, and minimal synth tones infusing the album with an opaque haze. Many of the riffs are identifiably black metal, albeit played through a guitar tone that appears to be in a perpetual state of collapse. The experience of Hail Conjurer remains one of live action entropy. It is as if we are watching the corpse of black metal decay before our eyes. Any solidity, detail, nuance, and clarity are gradually melting away, leaving nothing but a viscous mulch of material, with no way to distinguish features once thought to be clear and distinct.

This adds an extra layer of grief to tracks like ‘Two Stars’, which ends on an almost bright note with a simple guitar solo set to a mid-paced blast-beat and a hint of a major key. Yet all the usual weapons of black metal’s peripheral triumphalism fall to dust under the weight of decay’s inevitability. Simple, demo quality drums clatter their way through these pieces, at times barely able to hold the simplest of patterns together, at others desperately trying to marshal the guitars into an entity capable of holding its form.

The guitar tone itself adopts a bass heavy, overly distorted poise, one more fitting of primitive doom than frigid black metal. But there is intentionality behind this, as the faster passages fail to hold their form, the guitar only provokes this deconstruction further as the inertia of noise and feedback overpowers any traditional musical development at the level of the riff. A near constant fog of background noise – often of unknown origin – frames the metallic instruments with a cloud of uncertainty, mournful yet utterly alien. A punk-like vocal bark completes the picture, refusing to engage in any overt display of despair in favour of defiant outbursts of focused rage.

‘Ouroboros Lust’ is therefore a fascinating rumination on the deconstruction of music itself. But unlike the many attempts to achieve this process over the decades, here it takes place from within the citadel of institutionalised music theory itself. Thus creating the opportunity for us to witness music’s self-annihilation. Or rather, music’s self-dismantling. This is still recognisable as a work that contains rhythm, harmony, melody, phrasing. But all or contorted into various states of decay to the point that they appear to bleed into one another. We remain trapped in the moment where rot has set in, a return to yesterday’s certainties is no longer possible, but the full force of decomposition is yet to take place.

Hasard: Malivore
Out 12th May on I, Voidhanger

Metal has a genre problem. We all know it. On the one hand, genres are simply a tool of language, a way for us to identify the commonalities between a group of artists, and communicate this to others. The fact that there are so many specific tags is an inevitable side effect of a subculture as self-scrutinising as metal. What matters is when people use genre as a value judgement, smuggling in a covert critique under the tag that they assume will be understood by others. Taking this to an extreme, some artists receive the very act of classification as an afront, “surely not I? MY work is too complex and daring to be ensconced within a label!”.

This forgets that the most important thing, over and above the label, is what an artist brings to the tradition they work within. Those completely unbound by tradition usually dissolve into cacophonous nonsense. Hasard are an example of an artist capable of working within well trodden territory as far as genre is concerned, but bring their own clear and distinct set of ideas to supplement the norm. This is broadly dissonant, industrial infused black metal with obvious similarities to Axis of Perdition, Blut Aus Nord, and elements of contemporary Mayhem. But whilst these comparisons are stylistically justified, Hasard beaver away at their own clear interpretation, one so obviously distinct from its antecedents that I mention them simply to put you in the correct arena to describe the sound of ‘Malivore’.

There is a disjointed, unstructured approach to the sonic craft on this album that takes it out of the realms of metal at times. There are obvious timbral hallmarks, particular in the region of mixing dissonant black metal with caverncore. Rich symphonics display a nuanced understanding of the Western harmonic tradition, serving to lend theatrical credibility to the underlying nihilism of the dissonance. They guide the music into clear finales of dramatic import, forcing the guitars into traditional melodic coalescence. Swirling, disconnected drum patterns pulse beneath, pivoting more on the blending of fills to build meta patterns as opposed to simple metronomic devices.

But such moments of solidity are undercut by long segments defined by their total lack of solidity in any traditional musical sense. Structure remains through the manipulation of texture and dynamics, utilising the extra musical qualities of the instruments to create builds of noise and troughs of achingly eerie dark ambience. These take the compositions to a looser, informal zone when compared to the tight rigours of metal riffcraft. But as they coalesce into more recognisably industrial/symphonic black metal the underlying themes are picked up by the guitars, and transposed not into riffs in the strictest sense of the word, but certainly motifs that bear a clear resemblance to the passages that preceded them.

This makes ‘Malivore’ a unique work in the field, despite the obvious aesthetic similarities to a significant chunk of contemporary extreme metal.  But appearances are skin deep. Where lesser artists use interludes, ambience, and noise as filler with little relation to the direction that the “rock” instrumentation ends up taking, Hasard use atmosphere and noise as compositional weapons. Beneath the clutter, they dictate the flow of these pieces by weaving them into the formalities of metal.

Martre: Ofelia
Out 12th May on These Hands Melt

Danish solo black metal outfit spits out a debut that dances on the border of eclectic and unfocused. It meanders between the territory of blackened grind, DSBM, and more traditional Nordic elements, along with some tonally jarring post-metal. Given this cocktail, Martre do a good job of conveying the singular, unifying theme depicted on the cover art. Grief, nihilism, dark absurdism, all are communicated well regardless of the style. One gets the general feeling of human psychology colliding against the wall of mortality’s limitations, and all the obsessive madness this tends to engender.

The production is primitive, but allows enough space to convey both the self-limiting aggression of blackened grind and the meditative somnambulance of post metal. A wash of tremolo picked guitar riffs constitute the backbone of ‘Ofelia’ in all their trebly glory. Supressed yet surprisingly meaty drums underpin these with a barrage of blast-beats, disjointed fills, and at times almost jazzy breakdowns that pull the music away from its metallic lineage. Whilst obviously intended to be read as a drift toward experimentation, the playful shuffle and tease detracts from the overarching grief narrative of the rest of the material here. Vocals stick closely to familiar black metal territory, conveying a marked rage and torment without threatening the delicate balance of the mix.

Elements of noise rock and post metal integrate loosely into the jagged rigours of black metal, at their best weaving in an undeniably creepy undertone to these pieces. The guitar lines veer from sharp yet simple tremolo riffs to slow, funereal marches of minor key lamentations, keeping dissonance at bay in order to communicate a more direct expression of grief. But the surrounding elements of guitar noise, swelling feedback, distant clean vocals, and occasional clean arpeggios delivery a seasoning of surrealism to proceedings.

‘Ofelia’ is never quite allowed to become a more straightforward presentation of black metal hallmarks, nor is it permitted to dissolve into unconnected experimentation at the expense of losing its ability to emotively communicate. The two competing impulses keep the album on the straight and narrow despite its obvious desire to run free into the hills of pure experimentation. But it’s precisely this facet of ‘Ofelia’ – the fact that no one element is allowed to run amok – that keeps the listener engaged, both emotively in the thematic material and intellectually engaged as we are left guessing which stylistic pallet Martre will indulge next.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: